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Skrik (The Scream), a painting by Edvard Munch

A scream, shout, holler, vociferation, or yell is a loud vocalization in which air is passed through the vocal cords with greater force than is used in regular or close-distance vocalization. Though technically this process can be performed by any creature possessing lungs, the preceding terms are usually applied specifically to human vocalization.


Emotional motivation

Reasons for shouting vary, and it may be done deliberately or simply as a reaction. The core motive, in essentially all situations, is communication. These outbursts convey alarm, surprise, displeasure or outrage, or perhaps to gain the attention of another person or an animal.


Fear and surprise

When frightened, human beings tend to yelp, or cry out. This is both to convey fear and to call attention to themselves, increasing the possibility of receiving assistance from others. This action also serves as a possible defense tactic, as shouting may frighten off an assailant or cause them to falter, allowing a chance to escape.

Also, when people are not expecting something and it comes suddenly, they are surprised. If a person approaches another and jumps on them or shouts in their ear, or possibly shakes or jolts them, the targets of such pranks usually scream in shock or surprise. When shouts are caused in this way, perhaps in a practical joke, these startled shouts can be a source of embarrassment and anger, and may result in another form of vociferation: shouting match.

Two people arguing in a "shouting match".


People may yell out when overcome by joy or excitement, such as when winning a game, contest, competition, either one being played (like Monopoly), or one being watched (Football). One may scream when winning a prize, such as a Bingo (which may also be considered a competition) or the lottery. People may scream in delight, such as when meeting a loved one after a long interlude. Again, the purpose is to convey the positive emotions to others, and may be accompanied by clapping, dancing, singing, or other such celebratory behaviors.

Danger and pain

Shouting to inform others of danger is an evolutionary process within social animals. Such an action can be considered altruistic, as it announces the danger to others, while at the same time revealing the position of the one announcing the danger.

When people suffer injuries or other painful experiences, such as broken bones or gun shot wounds, they often scream in pain or surprise. These vociferations are often accompanied by crying and sobbing, and when done so, the synonym "wailing" may very well be used to describe this type of vocalization. These cries may be used to deal with the shock of the incident and can be used by others also as a way to avoid such hazards.

Other purposes


Sometimes screaming or louder-than-normal vocals are used in music. This is an increasingly common vocal technique especially utilized in numerous forms of heavy metal and hardcore punk.


Some people, when arguing begin to raise their voices to the point that they are screaming at each other in anger while continuing their debate exchange. Terminology includes "shouting match".


Drill instructors frequently use this tactic and its associated fear and intimidation to train recruits whilst fostering obedience and expedience.

Audio level

The decibel levels of scream pitches may be very high, and this has become an issue in the sport of tennis, particularly with regards to Maria Sharapova's loud tennis grunts which have been measured as high as 101.2 decibels.[1] The human range for screaming in decibels is between 0 and 112.8 which is the world record held by Alan Myatt.[2] The pitch varies depending on the justification for a scream.

The loudest scream by a crowd was a scream by a group of Scouts (all Finland) and was measured to reach a level of 127.2 dBA, in the grounds of Toivala's Metsakoulu, Siilinjarvi, Finland on 16 April 2005.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Tennis grunters told to stop the racket, by Linda Pearce, The, retrieved December 19, 2007
  2. ^ Quiet night's sleep for 'world's loudest man', BBC Health News, June 19, 2001
  3. ^ Loudest scream by a crowd

External links


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